A vision for the islands

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Plans for more autonomy for Scotland’s islands are at the heart of a consultation that will be published later this summer, the First Minister has announced.

Nicola Sturgeon told the Convention of the Highlands and Islands (COHI) that views would help draft a future Islands Bill to provide more power, equality and protection for the Islands to allow them to build a more prosperous and fairer future for their communities.

It follows the publishing of the ‘Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities’ prospectus in Orkney last June - the most comprehensive empowerment package for our islands put forward by any government.

The First Minister also confirmed there will be a full consultation across Scotland in due course on the long term arrangements for managing Crown Estate assets.

She was speaking to council leaders and officials during a meeting of COHI in Kirkwall – her first visit to Scotland’s islands since becoming First Minister.

The Convention brings together key public sector bodies to discuss issues relating to the Highlands and Islands.

These bodies include local councils, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Funding Council, Crofting Commission, Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage, Visit Scotland, University Highlands and Islands and NHS Health Boards.

The First Minister said:

“Our islands are part of the rich and diverse fabric of this country and they make a significant contribution to Scotland.

“We have previously committed to looking at devolving more autonomy to our islands and decentralise decision making to those who live and work in these unique parts of Scotland. We want to work to make our islands stronger and let them flourish.

“We are bringing through the Community Empowerment Bill, which will enable communities to be more involved in local decision-making. The forthcoming consultation will build on this and empower our island communities - it’s the perfect opportunity for ideas to be shared and considered before any decision is made on their future. We need to fully understand the best way to promote the islands, harness their resources and enhance the wellbeing of the islands.”